HC 101H: Threats to Ethics

Professor: Caroline Lundquist

Credits: 4.00

• CRN 18184: Monday & Wednesday, 1015-1145 @ This course will be held remotely

• CRN 18185: Monday & Wednesday, 1215-1345 @ This course will be held remotely

Everyone knows what it is like to face a moral dilemma. In situations where some of our values conflict with others, it can be incredibly challenging to know what we should do. But one thing we tend to assume as we deliberate is that some ethical action is possible; more broadly, we tend to assume that ethics is possible. However, as philosophers since ancient times have pointed out, there are ideas that can and should unsettle this assumption, leading us to ask: is ethics, at least as we know it, even possible?

In this course we will learn about and critically evaluate a selection of ideas— including relativism, egoism, false consciousness, moral luck and determinism— that call our basic assumptions about ethics into question. We’ll think about how these ideas threaten or undermine ordinary notions of the self, moral responsibility, moral judgment, reward and punishment, character, and the good society.   

In the process of exploring the threats to ethics, we’ll learn about an array of fallacies that tend to derail or misdirect conversations about ethics, and build some skills for thinking carefully about questions that matter to us all; questions that it is human to ask.

Can ethics as we know it survive in the face of the ideas that threaten it? If not, could that be a good thing? Can confronting the threats to ethics help us generate new and better ways of thinking about ethics, and new and better answers to the question ”How should I live?” We’ll find out together.